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We are all jonesing for the NFL. In a city that is home to a Major League baseball team that annually is figuratively done by the time most of us go on summer vacation and literally done by the time the kids go back to school, we long for the sights and sounds of the National Football League.
Apparently Baltimore is not alone. The boys of summer aren’t what they used to be and here in the Mid-Atlantic, they are no more than temporary distractions – a lame house salad just prior to the succulent beef tenderloin that we patiently await with watering mouths.
How else do you explain 45,000 strong at Fedex Field yesterday? Such a large gathering to witness what really is nothing more than a glorified practice?
Let’s face it, these scrimmages are no different than what the Ravens do on a daily basis out at McDaniel College with one exception – the players get to hit someone wearing a different helmet. Sure it’s nice to see the effectiveness of certain plays on a play by play basis, but the game of football is more than a sequence of scripted plays that have little regard to down and distance. Football is about adapting to the game’s environment and adjusting to an opponent’s tendencies. It’s about gaining and capturing momentum. These scrimmages are nothing more than work – practice – repetition.
Naturally we all want to keep score. We all want to know who wins when two rivals meet on the gridiron. Yet these scrimmages are next to impossible to score in a traditional sense. Only the individual performances can be scored and/or evaluated and that’s really all that a club can take away from these sessions. What did they learn about the fringe players and who is building a case to stay on the final 53 man roster?
Just as naturally we all want to see how Steve McNair looks in purple. Viewed as a savior by many, McNair will be front and center under the high powered lens of the fan microscope.
So how did he do yesterday? Well, his second pass was picked off by middle linebacker Marcus Washington and returned for a score. Oh no there goes the season!
The stats will show a pick six. What they won’t show is that McNair properly read a blitz and found one of his hot reads in Devard Darling. The stats won’t show that the inexperienced receiver cut off his route – a cardinal sin for a receiver particularly in a blitzing situation.
Fortunately it’s practice.
Live and learn.
The season is a process. It is a collection of learning experiences that if managed properly, will translate into wins on the field of play when it counts. Even if you could count or keep score in a scrimmage, is it really that important? Did each team give 100%? If they were firing live bullets, would a completed pass have been broken up or would a sack have resulted in a fumble? If Ray Lewis had intercepted Mark Brunell for a score, would it have really mattered?
You already know that answer.
So while you eagerly await the dawn of the NFL season and you pour your passion into beating Dan Snyder’s boys in a meaningless practice, keep in mind that this season is a marathon and yesterday’s scrimmage was merely a stretching exercise before the race.
Now if those other birds in town could only stay in the race beyond June….